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Eye on Psi Chi: Winter 2003
In the Thick of Things:
A Test of Humor Impairment

Mitchell M. Handelsman, University of Colorado at Denver
Joseph J. Palladino, University of Southern Indiana

In 1996 we published the diagnostic criteria for a newly identified disorder called humor-impaired personality disorder (HIPD; Palladino & Handelsman1). Since then (actually, since yesterday) we have been hard at work on formulating a simple test that can be used to assess for this unfortunate disorder--and to provide an income stream for us so we can retire early. Prompt screening and identification of HIPD sufferers will have several important social benefits. First, people who suffer from HIPD can quickly get the help they need (which I'm sure we'll detail in another column in another six years or so). Second, family members can feel good about supporting their loved ones who have this underdiagnosed but painful affliction. Third, friends can be more confident when they make their decisions about whom to invite and whom not to invite to their parties. Fourth, search committees will be able to screen job applicants more effectively. Fifth, universities can decide much more efficiently who gets to be faculty and who gets to be administration.

We call our new test the THICK--the Test of Humor-Impaired Cognitions and Knowledge. The full test will consist of 1,752 items and take six hours to administer. Why so long? Because actually finishing the test is clear evidence of HIPD; and anybody who stays awake for the entire test will get 1,600 points added to their Humor-Impairment Score Summary (HISS). There will be several sections on the exam. For example, the multiple-choice section will have items such as:

  • For Halloween, I would prefer to have a costume with the following on the chest:
    (a) an S for Superman
    (b) a P for Plato
    (c) a C for Costume
    (d) a plastic pocket protector with three pens and two sharpened pencils

  • On Saturday nights in college, I read:
    (a) dirty novels
    (b) other books by Philip Roth
    (c) textbooks
    (d) my laminated copy of the Wall Street Journal

  • To lift my spirits when I'm feeling blue, I:
    (a) listen to a favorite piece of music
    (b) write in my journal
    (c) go to a comedy club
    (d) picket a comedy club
    (e) what's a comedy club?

  • The most pleasurable social interaction I have on a regular basis is:
    (a) dinner and a movie with an attractive companion
    (b) checking out in the express line with MORE than 14 items
    (c) bowling
    (d) being pulled aside for a random search at the airport

  • The possession that I am most proud of, and that really communicates who I am, is:
    (a) my new red convertible sports car
    (b) my collection of great books
    (c) my Pez dispenser
    (d) my alphabetized, laminated collection of business cards from service stations at major intersections throughout the region

  • On my résumé, the "job skill" that I listed first is:
    (a) "computer knowledge--several software programs"
    (b) "gets along well with people"
    (c) "acting experience"
    (d) "anal-retentive"

  • If I had a four-week, all-expenses-paid vacation next year, I would choose to:
    (a) spend all four weeks on the beach in Hawaii
    (b) spend all four weeks cruising the Caribbean
    (c) spend all four weeks cruising the Internet
    (d) split the time between reading the Congressional Record and attending student government meetings at several colleges in the region

  • During my spare time and vacations, I would prefer to read:
    (a) the sports section of the local newspaper
    (b) nothing
    (c) sand patterns on the beach
    (d) palms
    (e) the APA Publication Manual

  • When I'm alone, I like to:
    (a) relax
    (b) listen to punk rock
    (c) listen to jazz
    (d) listen to my heart beat
    (e) count the holes in my watchband

The second part of the test will be short answer questions, such as:

  • What are the major differences between LAPD Blue, The Simpsons, and the Weather Channel?

  • What is the proper thing to do when you find yourself in a room full of clowns in full makeup?

  • After attending a wedding ceremony, have you ever said any of the following?
    -- "I didn't know 'till death do us part' referred to the length of the ceremony."
    -- "I wish there were more readings; they are so inspirational."
    -- "Which one was the bride?"
    -- "For a four-year-old, that kid has a really great voice."

The next part of the test consists of a short series of 371 items asking the person to indicate how many times in the last year they have:

  • said, "I have as good a sense of humor as the next person."
  • tried to tell a joke, didn't get a laugh, and said, "You had to be there."
  • said to a close friend, "Can't you be serious, just once!"
  • watched The McLaughlin Group to actually learn about the news.
  • underlined or highlighted more than 35% of any textbook.

In the biological section of the test, the person is hooked up to an EMG, EKG, EEG, and scrambled EGGS to measure physiological responses to various stimuli. The test-taker is shown pictures of:

  • Charlie Chaplin
  • Steve Martin
  • Mark Twain
  • Pauly Shore
  • Al Gore
  • B. F. Skinner
  • a hand buzzer
  • a toaster

Finally, if at any time test-takers say, "You've GOT to be kidding!" they get points taken off of their HIPD score. The scores to each part of the test are weighted--using factor analysis, multiple regression, childhood regression, and lead. The final score is multiplied by 0.999999, added to the 1936 gross national product of Lichtenstein, subtracted from the weight (in metric units) of the test-taker's third-grade teacher, and converted to base 6. (This is the scoring system recommended by our consultants, who are at the high end of HIPD.) The score is reported on a 5" X 7" parchment, suitable for ingestion.
In subsequent columns, we will definitely address some of the more innovative treatment strategies for HIPD. Or not.

1 Palladino, J. J., & Handelsman, M. M. (1996, Spring). The humor-impaired personality disorder: Diagnostic criteria. Psi Chi Newsletter, 22, 14-16.


Copyright 2003 (Volume 7, Issue 2) by Psi Chi, the International Honor Society in Psychology


Eye on Psi Chi is a magazine designed to keep members and alumni up-to-date with all the latest information about Psi Chi’s programs, awards, and chapter activities. It features informative articles about careers, graduate school admission, chapter ideas, personal development, the various fields of psychology, and important issues related to our discipline.

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